When you’re out on your boat or other watercraft on a sunny Florida day, it can be tempting to partake of some of the alcohol you’ve packed for later or that your guests are enjoying. However, Florida law treats boating under the influence (BUI) essentially the same way it treats driving under the influence. Further, a BUI conviction can increase the criminal consequences for you if you later get a DUI.
Under Florida law, you can be arrested for BUI even if you’re operating water skis as well as sailboards and other watercraft if you have a blood alcohol concentration of at least .08% — and even less than that if you’re operating the watercraft unsafely as a result.
People under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs can endanger their own safety as well as that of others on the water. Alcohol is one of the leading causes of boating crashes and deaths.
The potential penalties under Florida law
Under Florida law, a first conviction for BUI can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. A second or subsequent conviction only increases the potential penalties. If someone is injured because a boat operator was allegedly under the influence, they could face more serious charges, including manslaughter if any fatalities result.
You never know who’s going to be patrolling the waters off the Florida coast at any given time. You could possibly be stopped by local, state or federal law enforcement agents, including the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
If you’ve been charged with BUI, it’s crucial that you understand the potential consequences on your freedom. It’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights, understand what potential defense options you have and work to mitigate the impact of a BUI on your life.